The Best Time to Transplant Trees

By Nancy Penrose

It is very important when moving a tree from one place to another to be aware of the time of year. Trees can have a lot of their water evaporate through their leaves and foliage during a transplanting effort. Dormancy season for conifer and deciduous trees, (those that lose their leaves in the fall), is the best season to transplant a tree.

Once deciduous trees are losing their leaves it is a good signal that dormancy has settled into the Northwest each fall. Once transplanted, the tree will have ideal temperatures and the enthusiastic growth push of the season to help them adjust to the new space. Aftercare is imperative. The tree will need consistent, daily drip irrigation to the root ball surface to help the tree survive and adjust. Typically 15 minutes of drip per day during the growing season (April-October) will suffice. Do not water your trees during the dormant season.

Late Fall to Early Spring

Late fall to early spring in the Northwest is the ideal time of year for transplanting a tree. They will handle being dug and moved much better at that time of year. The timing is best when the tree can be handled before its new foliage has broken its bud casings.

Early Fall

Some trees will do fine if you transplant them in the early fall, especially evergreen trees. If you live in a colder area/higher altitude environment, and an evergreen tree is being transplanted there from a warmer/lower altitude climate, then it’s best to transplant the tree in early spring and let it have a half a year in its new location before winter starts.

Late Winter

Transplanting a tree in late winter is a fine time too, especially as it rarely freezes hard enough in our Puget Sound climate to make planting difficult. If it is too cold to be digging, our trucks won’t be on the road anyway.


The middle of summer is the least desirable time of year for transplanting trees in our Puget Sound region. Deciduous trees have all their new leaves, and conifer trees have their fresh evergreen foliage. All of these trees are pulling hard for water through their existing root systems to nurture their new growth so disrupting this can be detrimental if not done with proper precaution, methods and aftercare. Fortunately, Big Trees has garnered significant experience in moving trees during the summer because of construction schedule demands. There are many techniques and treatments we use and have developed over the decades to help summer transplants along, including digging larger size rootballs than normally required and application of products that help put the tree in temporary dormancy during the transplant process.


Many construction companies are recognizing trees as priorities to their clients. In addition, there are many city development guidelines attempting to retain tree canopy in the face of our extreme pace of real estate development. Big Trees is the first in any consulting group to point out when a tree is not a good transplant candidate. Keeping our integrity and advisements as a trusted resource for builders and municipalities is a major priority in our assessment of transplanting opportunities.

In our Puget Sound region, the importance of our urban and suburban trees and what they contribute to our environments is given significant consideration nowadays. Big Trees is very pleased to assist with the protection and retention of our region’s tree populations.

If you have more questions about transplanting you can always call a big tree specialist at Big Trees Inc., 360-563-2700.

Nancy Penrose is owner of Big Trees Inc. (, (tree nursery Snohomish, WA), one of the largest Seattle tree nurseries, specializing in large trees for sale and transplant tree service. Learn more about tree preservation at and for more tips on tree care or installation go to See our video at and connect with us on Facebook at